Plan 9 and Inferno at the Google Summer of Code

Google Summer of Code 2009 Guidelines

If you are not a participant in the 2009 Google Summer of Code program, you can safely skip to the next section; there’s not much interesting stuff for you here.

Otherwise, welcome, and congratulations on making it into the Plan 9 program for the 2009 GSoC. We received over 50 applications and were only able to accept 7 of them. If you have not done so yet, take a moment to send your mentor(s) an email, introducing yourself. These are the people who will be guiding you through the next few months, so it’s good to have an open communications channel.


We are expecting students to embrace all means of communication during this period, and as such, we’ve created several means by which you can get in touch with us:

Progress Reports

Progress reports must be entered into your blog weekly. Your blog will be formatted in markdown, so these blog posts should be well-formatted text, and perfect for emailing to the plan9-gsoc list as well. After these reports, you and your mentor must convene to discuss them and any outstanding issues. These reports should detail where you are with your project, where you expect to be by the next week, and any blocking issues you are facing (especially if they may place a delay on your project).

This weekly status update is the minimal requirement – you may of course contact your mentor or blog or email more than once per week, should you feel the need. The mentors and the community at large are there to help you through your project for the summer, so don’t be ashamed to ask questions!

The day to update your blog is Monday between 12:00 and 18:00UTC.

Community Bonding Period (20 April - 23 May)

During the community bonding period, we will be expecting you either to be completing tasks assigned by your mentor to familiarize yourself with the environment in which you will be working, or doing preliminary work on your project (if you are already very familiar with Plan 9). This preliminary work would include design and architectural decisions. During this period, you should be discussing any questions you have about Plan 9 or your project with your mentor. Additionally, you should be actively discussing the architecture of your project with your mentor.

During this time, you will also be set up with access to a version control repository and blog. Unless your project requires otherwise, we encourage you to perform your developmental tasks on an actual Plan 9 system or virtual machine. Examples of exempt requirements are development in Inferno, or working on components for other operating systems (e.g. Glendix, vx32/9vx for Windows). IMPORTANT: All source code must be kept in this public repository, and all development for your project should be committed to the repository as it is available. No excuses.

Interim Period (24 May - 6 July)

Weekly status updates should be sent to your mentor(s). As specified above, these reports should contain your progress for the week, and where you expect to be by the next week. If you have any questions, pose them here. If you are falling behind schedule, let your mentor know what issues you are experiencing, and try to work out a way to catch up.

Midterm Period (6 July to 13 July)

Mentors and students should work together to determine specifics on their mid-term evaluations. We expect development to continue through this phase, and a weekly report will be expected here, too.

Interim Period (13 July - 10 August)

This period of development follows the 24 May - 6 July Interim Period schedule as far as expected work and communication.

Pencils Down Period (10 August - 17 August)

Remove bugs, clean code, discuss the project with your mentor. You should not plan to be using this time for your project, though it is not expressly forbidden. At the end of this period, you’ll be asked to take a survey about the experience, to provide the mentors feedback with how you felt about the project, any problems you had, and to provide suggestions for smoother sailing in the years to come.


If you have questions about your project, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your mentor(s). If you are unable to get in touch with your mentor(s) over an extended period of time (four or five days; no longer than a week), or are unable to reach them in an urgent situation, get in touch with Anthony Sorace, the project administrator (anothy_x on IRC, via email) or any other mentor who is immediately available.

Working With Plan 9

Plan 9 is not like any other modern operating system you have used. Learning how to use a different operating system is not too different from learning a new skill or language, and the same amount of perseverence and patience is required. The best thing to do before diving into Plan 9 is to accept that you will be learning new things (and not just re-learning things you already knew).

Installing Plan 9

Our hardware support is somewhat lacking. We run on many modern machines, but we do not have drivers for some of the ‘‘newest and coolest’’ devices. The best way to run Plan 9 when learning is by installing it in a virtual machine. The installation process itself is not complicated, but does take quite some time. For this reason, we are providing a new, preinstalled qemu disk image. While Plan 9 does come pre-installed on this machine, there are still plenty of useful administration tasks to learn, all of which will help familiarize you with the system.

The disk image is available at To boot Plan 9 in qemu, simply run: qemu -hda plan9-qemu.qcow -boot c -std-vga.

To become familiar with the Plan 9 operating system, you should install the qemu image and begin becoming acquainted with the system. A good first project to undertake is to configure your qemu VM to be a standalone CPU server. Instructions for configuring Plan 9 as a CPU server are available at

Plan 9 Resources

Working With Inferno

Inferno is an operating system designed to function well for implementing distributed systems. Mechiel Lukkien has created a wonderful introductory guide for Inferno at